NOW IN THEATERS! Director Leo Milano brings a comedic take to his Midwest all-boys high school education in The Crusades. The fictionalized version of Milano, Leo (Rudy Pankow), and his friends Sean (Khalil Everage) and Jack (Ryan Ashton) are faced with changes coming to their school that will upend their groove. They decide to have the greatest weekend of their lives before the changes hit Monday.
Written by Milano, Shaun Early, and Jack Hussar, the film is a kinder, gentler Superbad, updated for a new generation, and set in a somewhat more upscale environment. Leo is a variant of an archetype defined by Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder, Joel McHale in Community, and Jeremy Piven in Old School, just to name a few of a very deep list. He’s an intelligent, sarcastic kid who gets in trouble but never in any serious way and is secretly sweet and serious.
Meanwhile, Jack is the derpy, clueless big kid (a la Belushi, Candy, and so on). Sean is the eternal sidekick delivering the straight lines. We’ve seen these characters repeatedly, and for good reason, as they’re completely relatable. Leo has a horrific crush on his gorgeous Italian tutor, Miss Kerpial (Anna Maiche), and struggles with the language just to impress her.
There’s no story without an enemy, and in The Crusades, that foe takes the form of a cross-town rival school, St. Matthews. On the eve of a possible merger with St. Matthews, Leo, Sean, and Jack face the possibility of now having to re-establish the social pecking order with stronger, meaner boys from the other school. The overall vibe arises from constant locker-room talk and boasting, which is par for the course at an all-male school. The lack of women in their social fabric has left these guys with a severe case of arrested development. Miss Kerpial is the sex object for the entire school.
“…Leo, Sean, and Jack face the possibility of now having to re-establish the social pecking order…”
As the weekend kicks off, our intrepid trio of well-meaning goofballs spends the weekend working through various situations, mostly involving a house party, school girls, and psychopathic ex-boyfriends. When the sun comes up Monday morning, they are battered and bruised but are with each other. However, questions involving their future with school and females still remain.
Pankow, Everage, and Ashton play off each other well. Audiences buy them as friends from the beginning of The Crusades, and each brings their characters’ struggles to believable life. One of the best performances comes from Nicolas Turturro, making an appearance as manic weight training Coach Kreiger. It’s been a while since Turturro has turned up, but he chews the scenery here and steals every scene he’s in. His moments in the weight room are hilarious.
In an interview with US99, Milano said, “…growing up, I really couldn’t relate to a lot of the high school movies and the teenage movies that Hollywood put out. Growing up in the Midwest, there are no lavish mansion parties or pool parties. Then, when I got to college, I quickly realized that my experience in an all-boys school was nothing like the average high school experience… I think it’s a movie for everyone, believe it or not.”
Milano speaks true. The more specific the situation depicted, the more generally the metaphors apply. The Crusades updates a moment that comes for every generation, with heart, style, and a few surprises. The boys make their first steps toward adulthood as the weekend comes to an end. The performances of the three leads and all of the cast are all solid and authentic. The film looks and sounds great.
"…the three leads and all of the cast are all solid..."